In the great Feast of Pentecost, the Church brings to a close our 50 days of Easter rejoicing. We traditionally speak of this Feast as the “Birthday of the Church.” For on this day, as reflected in our familiar first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples of the Lord underwent a profound transformation. No longer imprisoned in the upper room by fear and doubt, they were empowered now by the gift of the promised Spirit of the Lord and went forth boldly to proclaim the Good News of the Risen Christ. They became Evangelizers! That word, Evangelizer – literally means one who brings “good news” to others.
Our familiar first reading from Acts that is always proclaimed on Pentecost is always a tongue twisting challenge for lectors. For it narrates the various peoples who gathered from the different parts of the known world for the Jewish festival of Pentecost in Jerusalem. However, this Pentecost would be one that would forever change their lives. For on this day, the Church would be born as men and women would open their hearts and embrace in faith the saving news that the Risen Jesus is indeed Lord of Creation and Savior of the world.
The scripture story tells us that these diverse folk who represented different cultures and languages, all could understand the saving message proclaimed by those first apostles. While we might conclude that some miraculous linguistic feat took place, empowering the apostles to skip arduous language courses to immediately be able to speak these different languages, perhaps something far more profound was taking place.
These first evangelizers were undoubtedly speaking the common language of God’s unfailing mercy, forgiveness and love to the people who gathered in anticipation that first Pentecost. And it is that same, language, my friends, that is desperately needed to be on our lips today as women and men called to be the new Evangelizers to a world and culture that is in need of the transforming grace of the Risen Savior.
There are in life, languages that know no geographical boundaries. The universal language of unfailing mercy, forgiveness and love, continues to speak powerfully to a world and to lives that more and more are scared by the darkness of hatred, resentment and prejudice.
It is a paradox that this language of mercy, forgiveness and love – virtues that are the antithesis of so much of the violence that we see in our world today – would empower a non-Christian, Gandhi the father of modern-day India, to bring about the peaceful liberation of his people into a new Nation. Gandhi once said that “there would be far more Christians, if you Christians were far more like Christ!”
As we celebrate this great feast of the beginning of the Church, let us pray that our own hearts might be drawn into the Spirit’s gifts of mercy, forgiveness and love. May those virtues be the universal language that we strive to speak each day and in doing so, may others come to know the marvelous works of God, as we strive to become more like Christ each day.